A translation agency recently posted a blog about the effect of personality on the choice of career when it comes to translating and interpreting. They suggested that translators tend to be more introverted and interpreters more extroverted. Is this true and can the suggestion be tested?
Many people who are not in the translation or interpretation industry confuse the two different techniques. Generally speaking, it is rare for interpreters and translators to be the same people. Translators, whether they are German English translators or Arabic French translators deal with text while interpreters deal with the spoken word.
This means that translators are not necessarily forced to deal with people on a face to face basis. They may have a document that has been sent to them by email or uploaded on to a German translation service website, for instance and work on it individually at their own pace. This doesn’t mean they don’t have to communicate with anyone. They still have to communicate with colleagues or the boss at their agency if they work for a company. They may also have to communicate with clients and proofreaders if these are used separately from the translators.
However, it is true to say that they do not spend the amount of time which an interpreter does listening to someone speak and be able to convert this into another language quickly and direct it towards an audience which could range from a prime minister to a businessman or a whole conference or an assembly.
Without doing any sociological research it makes sense to say that the translator’s job would be best suited to an introvert. To put it another way, a naturally introverted person if given a direct choice of becoming a translator or an interpreter assuming that the rewards are identical would be most likely to choose the former career.
At the same time, one might assume that with all that face to face contact, the job of the interpreter would be the most preferred choice of the natural extrovert.
In real life, of course, things are never that clear-cut. People change their professions and may stumble into them for all sorts of reasons. What can safely be said is that the demand for translators and interpreters, extrovert, introvert or neither, continues to grow as the world becomes increasingly diverse within national borders and the amount of communication and trade that goes on between nations on a global scale rises every year.